Beginning the Study of “Greater Things” (Scripture reading and study)
Updated: Sep 9
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.
These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,...” (John 5:39–40)
Did you ever, like me, realize: I haven’t even thought about what my favorite things are, when you’ve heard the “My Favorite Things” song from The Sound of Music? Which begins with this verse:
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens,
Brown paper packages tied up with strings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
I would think: I don’t have a list of things to think about “when I’m feeling sad,” or “bad,” like, Maria, who would then sing this repeating chorus in her song:
When the dog bites, when the bee stings,
When I'm feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.
You probably weren’t like me, in that, instead of making my own list, I would feel “bad” that I hadn’t naturally thought of making a list like Maria had, and I would be certain I must be some kind of a loser because I hadn’t, and then I would feel even worse. This is how the cycle goes in the mind of a person prone to depression.
However, when I was around fourteen years old, I found one uncommon favorite thing that I loved, that could pull me out of a slump—though I didn’t recognize that’s what it was doing at the time. It was a favorite thing that I have become a bit nerdy about since then and has continued to be a favorite thing all my life—though my motives for engaging have shifted significantly. What is that enduring, favorite thing?
As we kids got older, our father got into a regular practice of calling each one of us, one at a time, into his office for a “personal interview.” It was coveted one-on-one time with our ever-busy, hardly-ever-home father, which included motivational goal setting. I loved our talks during those precious times. From them, I knew my father got up early each morning to spend time in prayer and Scripture reading. Eventually, as part of trying to please my father and out of my love and respect for him, I set a goal to spend time studying the Scriptures every day, too.
Though at first, I chose this goal to please my father, things blossomed from there. My father (along with the LDS Church) encouraged me to start with reading the Book of Mormon.
We would also read from the Book of Mormon as a family when my father was home. Growing up in an “active” LDS family we tried to “follow the living prophet” by obeying his counsel to build the foundations of a “forever family” by doing this. On one occasion in our reading, these verses from the Book of Mormon stood out to me:
Behold, I have written upon these plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.
...And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh. (Ether 4:4, 6)
The words “never were greater things made manifest” in connection with “the word of the Lord” stood out to me. They stirred me. “Greater things” was a phrase that was occasionally used in the LDS Church to emphasize the “Scriptures” that we had through “the restored gospel of Jesus Christ” through Joseph Smith and other “modern-day (LDS) prophets.”
I always wanted the best of the best, but at the same time, I did not wish to compete with or against others. For one, I didn’t have that kind of self-confidence. In a way, I wanted to be good at something other people would less likely be good at—to avoid competition with others. I wanted to invest in something different than my peers.
These desires combined so that the idea of receiving these “greater things” through searching the Scriptures stood out vibrantly to me. I’ve learned it’s one of the ways God has wired me to be—hungry for His assuring voice and presence.
I wholeheartedly believed the Book of Mormon was the pure word of the Lord, and I wanted to become worthy enough to know what the “greater things made manifest...unto the brother of Jared” were. Since it seemed they were connected to loyalty to and knowledge of “the word of the Lord,” this increased my aspiration to dedicate myself to searching the Scriptures.
After gradually reading the Book of Mormon all the way through, I read from the “definitive” eight-volume paperback book set published by the LDS Church: The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Discourses of Brigham Young, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. I-III, Gospel Doctrine, and The Articles of Faith and Jesus the Christ. We considered the writings of the “modern-day prophets,” from Joseph Smith forward to the present-day prophet, to be inspired by God, so their words were also considered Scripture by us. Some of the words of some of the LDS Church’s Twelve Apostles also ranked as Scripture—or close to it. I wanted to learn our LDS Church doctrine from the original, unadulterated source.
One of the first things I determined concerning Scripture reading and study—based on an LDS conference talk and hiking in the Colorado Rockies—was that I would only drink from the pure source of the spring, rather than from the muddied or polluted waters downstream. I would seek the truth through a dedicated study of the words in Scripture and not use commentaries or other lesser sources for my foundational understanding of the truth. Though it was a misapplied rule at the time, it is a principle that has stood me in good stead ever since.
As I continued along the path of Scripture reading, I began to discover Scripture study. I found myself wanting to understand certain phrases or topics better, so I would look up the cross-references that were noted in the margins. The LDS Church uses the King James Version of the Bible, without word changes, except that it contains cross-references to the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the Bible (more on this below) and other books that are part of the LDS “Standard Works.” Standard Works is another name for the main books the LDS Church accepts as Scripture. These include—besides the King James Version of The Holy Bible—The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and The Doctrine and Covenants. These books are combined into one thick volume of “Scriptures.” Each of these books has cross-references in the margins to other verses within the LDS Church’s Standard Works.
I was so excited when not long after I started this kind of study, the LDS Church came out with a paperback Topical Guide for the LDS Scriptures. It was then I also found I love words—their etymology and meaning and their power when rightly applied. Studying words and topics quickly became another one of my favorite things. I still find this kind of study can greatly increase my depth of understanding—as long as I’m not isolating verses from their context or meaning at the same time.
Of all the Standard Works and other writings considered Scripture in the LDS Church, my favorite was the Book of Mormon. Here is the LDS Church’s description of it:
...It is an abridgment by an ancient prophet named Mormon of the records of ancient inhabitants of the Americas.
...A religious record of three groups of people who migrated from the Old World to the American continents. These groups were led by prophets who recorded their religious and secular histories on metal plates. The Book of Mormon records the visit of Jesus Christ to people in the Americas following His Resurrection...
Moroni, the last of the Nephite prophet-historians, sealed up the abridged records of these people and hid them in about A.D. 421. In 1823, the resurrected Moroni visited Joseph Smith and later delivered to him these ancient and sacred records to be translated and brought forth to the world as another testament of Jesus Christ.
As a side note: because the LDS Church is often accused of not being a Christian denomination—for reasons LDS people don’t understand—when I was in my teens, the LDS Church began trying to emphasize that it is Christian by adding the subtitle to the Book of Mormon: “another testament of Jesus Christ.” They also began accenting the words “Jesus Christ” in the LDS Church’s full name and changed their descriptions and teachings to include the name or things about “Jesus Christ” in them so people would know by these inclusions that Mormons are Christians.
The last part of the LDS Church’s description of the Book of Mormon states:
[The Book of Mormon] was written to testify that Jesus is the Christ. Concerning this record, the Prophet Joseph Smith, who translated it by the gift and power of God, said, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
I believed this with all my heart! This “understanding” added pride and zeal to my study of the Book of Mormon.
Most of my actual reading from the Bible was when I was looking up cross-references to it from other LDS Standard Works. I wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about reading or studying the Bible as I was about becoming familiar with other LDS Scripture. What was the reason for this?
My favorite book of Scripture, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and all our leaders and teachers following him, clearly and emphatically taught that Bible, as it was transmitted to us, lacked integrity. Especially, referencing a “prophecy” by the first, and a main “prophet of the Book of Mormon, Nephi,” it was taught and reiterated:
“Wherefore, these things [the Old and New Testaments in the Bible] go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb [Jesus], from the Jews unto the Gentiles [non-Jews], thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb [the New Testament in the Bible] many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away [the Old Testament in the Bible].” (1 Nephi 13:25–26, see also 28, 29, 32, 34, 40; all underlining is mine)
From the above chapter as well as chapter fourteen, we also understood:
...there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. (1 Nephi 14:10)
We believed that because the Lord had used Joseph Smith to “bring forth” the Book of Mormon and restore His Church on earth, the LDS Church was “the church of the Lamb of God [Jesus Christ]” mentioned here. So, we also understood that all other churches must be part of “the church of the devil.” And the “they”—those who were part of the “great and abominable church”—who had “taken away” all these “plain and precious things” from the Bible were the Christian leaders and scribes in the Church following the death of Christ’s twelve apostles.
Through “the writings of the Book of Mormon prophet, Nephi,” we believed the Lord had also said, “Because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written” (2 Nephi 29:10). I “knew, without a doubt,” as I had been taught and come to firmly believe, that the Lord was referring to the Book of Mormon here as well as the other Scripture Joseph Smith and inspired leaders following in his steps would “bring forth” besides the Bible. We (LDS people) understood that the “coming forth” of the Book of Mormon through Joseph Smith was part of how God was restoring the “plain and precious things” which had been taken away.
Unquestionably, the Book of Mormon is “the keystone of [the LDS] religion.” This perspective regarding the Bible and Joseph Smith in the LDS Church is at the very heart of LDS faith and doctrine—maintaining the reason for the existence of the LDS Church.
There was another deterrent to placing my faith in the veracity of the Bible. We were taught through the eighth article in “The Articles of Faith” of the LDS Church: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” You might notice that in this “Article of Faith,” there is no qualification connected with The Book of Mormon, but there is with the Bible. Not only were we taught (and taught each other) that the Bible is “the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (underlining is mine), but also, emphatically, that the Bible was not translated correctly. I strongly and firmly believed this with all my heart as well.
The unreliability of the Bible and the corruption of the not-LDS Christian church was reaffirmed to me each time I heard, in any form, the following reminder: before Joseph Smith was killed, “he was divinely commissioned” to make “a revision or translation of the King James Version of the Bible,” and he “regarded it as ‘a branch of his calling’ as a prophet.” Also, the LDS Scripture, the Doctrine and Covenants, refers to or mentions “Joseph Smith’s translation of the King James Bible in...sections 37, 45, 73, 76, 77, 86, 91, and 132.” The “fact” Joseph Smith needed to make adjustments to the Bible by “retranslating” it proved its corruption to me. He did not finish this intended work before his death, so that made me wonder what else in the Bible remained uncorrected—that we would never know about. I didn’t trust the Bible.
Meanwhile, I was grateful that “many excerpts from the JST [were] given in the appendix and footnotes...of the KJV.”9 Also, whole chapters and sections of the Bible, which Joseph Smith did complete retranslating, were published as part of the LDS Church’s Standard Works in The Pearl of Great Price. Though they weren’t available then, various JST Bibles are now obtainable in most LDS Church bookstores. I would have loved this back then. We were taught things like, “the JST to some extent assist[ed] in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible (see 1 Ne. 13–14),” and that it:
...offers many interesting insights and is an invaluable aid to biblical interpretation and understanding. It is a most fruitful source of useful information for the student of the scriptures. It is likewise a witness for the divine calling and ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Another side note: Confusion sometimes arises because these teachings about the Bible and the Book of Mormon are not generally shared directly or owned outright by LDS leaders or church members when they are conversing with “non-members.” I think LDS reasoning goes something like this: “People outside the LDS Church just wouldn’t understand.” I know, I used to think this and often heard it spoken. When LDS people (including myself in the past) are confronted by non-LDS people about their stance on the Bible, the common response is that the LDS church certainly does view the Bible as Scripture—the proof is in the fact that the King James Version of the Bible is part of the Standard works! And Joseph Smith did teach that the KJV of the Bible is the most correct version of the Bible in English. Or they will cite the eighth Article of Faith, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God...” but leave off the rest of that sentence. I don’t think these responses are meant to intentionally deceive those outside the LDS church, but they do keep those in the LDS Church from clearly recognizing all the implications of their stance on the Bible. Whether it’s honest or not, it’s an understandable response since, again, the “real” LDS teaching on the Bible is essential to the very existence of the LDS church.
The Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), we were often assured, consist of the Lord’s “revelation given...through Joseph Smith the Prophet,” as well as revelation given through other LDS prophets. Through one of the “revelations” in the D&C, we were taught that the Lord commanded,
“The elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.” (D&C 42:12)
For this reason, I was sure that by studying both of these books, but especially the Book of Mormon, I could attain an understanding of “the greater things” mentioned in the “Book of Ether.”
Since I had read through the Book of Mormon already, I began to study topics from the Bible, like “faith,” “baptism,” “repentance,” etc. with a strong reliance on the LDS footnotes—especially those referring to the Book of Mormon or the JST of the Bible.
It was during one of these studies I noticed that something Paul had said in one of his (New Testament) letters was also word-for-word right there in the Book of Mormon. It disturbed me, not so much because it was there, but because Paul’s exact words were clearly in the wrong tense for the Book of Mormon story and setting. The Book of Mormon story was to have taken place hundreds of years before Paul lived on the earth. How could the Book of Mormon prophet and Paul have said the exact same words? And why were the Book of Mormon prophet’s words in the wrong tense matching Paul’s words? I finally settled this in my mind by deciding these words were ultimately God’s words and that He could put them in the mind and mouth of anyone He chose. With this I left off, for the time being, thinking about the tense being wrong in the Book of Mormon. I “knew” through feelings stronger than reason, that the Book of Mormon was a pure, uncorrupted translation of ancient writings from God, and that’s all I needed or wanted to know about this beloved book.
I did as I had been taught. I trusted, above all, my “good” or “right feelings”—especially the “burning in the bosom” or “breast” (heart). This “burning,” I was given to understand, and believed, signified the Holy Ghost’s (Holy Spirit’s) witness that something was from God and was true. (Sometimes this “burning” in one’s heart can signify this—but not always.) It was by these feelings that I “knew” the LDS Church was true, and therefore that the Book of Mormon was exactly as it had always been represented to me to be.
Later, I was even more relieved when I learned the Book of Mormon had been edited quite a few times to correct the grammar errors of the “Old English” Joseph Smith used that didn’t have our modern grammar rules attached to it. Not being a linguistics or grammar whiz, this eased my mind almost completely for a time.
I don’t remember ever reading the Bible all the way through while I was a member of the LDS Church. And an understanding of the importance of historical and literary context—for getting closer to the original meaning of a text—was far away in my future. I also didn’t understand (using all the Bible witnesses as a precedent) that when God has worked with or through humans—namely the prophets and apostles of old—He always utilized the concepts and language they knew and understood and that is how they described what God was revealing to them. This is one of the things that sometimes makes the Bible hard for us moderns to understand.
Because I hadn’t even read, let alone really studied the Bible, I couldn’t have seen or even imagined, for example, just how many words, phrases, sentences, and ideas from the New Testament can be found reassigned in a different context in these “ancient texts written by the Book of Mormon prophets of old.” Words, phrases, and sentences also concepts containing notions or ideas that didn’t exist in time yet, nor have precedence for being in the Book of Mormon are found there—in abundance. Is this significant?
Let’s take only 1 Nephi 13–14,4 which we’ve just been looking at (and which I’m doing for the first time here). Nephi was supposed to have lived around 600 years before Christ. How was he able to understand and record concepts or ideas such as “Gentile,” “church,” “Bible,” “apostles,” “gospel,” “twelve apostles,” “Son [referring specifically to Jesus] of the Eternal Father,” “Lamb [referring to Jesus] of God,” “Savior [referring to Jesus] of the world,” “last shall be first, and the first shall be last,” “life eternal,” “mother of...abominations,” “wars and rumors (rumours in KJV) of wars (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7),” “mother of harlots,” “white robe,” “the end of the world” (in the sense of the final days of the world’s existence)? All these concepts and ideas and the words to express them are not in the Old Testament or found in Old Testament times, Nephi’s alleged context. He could not have been familiar with these ideas or concepts because some of them developed in the old world that Nephi’s family had left behind when they traveled to the Americas, and some were a result of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We understand these concepts because of how these things came to us over time. In “the prophet Nephi’s” place and time they did not exist, or they would have been expressed in a different way familiar to him.
So many words, phrases, and underlying concepts (which concepts I didn’t get into above) used as they are in just these two chapters in the Book of Mormon are a major historical context issue. This isn’t merely a translation preference, like the word “book” (something we are familiar with) being used instead of the term “scroll” (something most people are not familiar with).
I didn’t realize I was familiar with and identified with all these New Testament words and concepts in the Book of Mormon because of the time and place in which I lived. I assumed “the Book of Mormon prophets” were like us in what they understood. If someone had mentioned anything contrary at that time, I would have thought that they were (or someone was) making things up, twisting things, or exaggerating to give the LDS Church a bad name—and that such rumors were from “...the devil.” And I would have used the logic: “God, who inspired Nephi, surely could have shown him all these things and more if He wanted to.”
I didn’t see that God has never worked that way. Now, I would question: So many out-of-context ideas and concepts? And not just for Nephi, but for other “Book of Mormon” prophets? I’ve seen that God works with where we are—within our social, cultural, and historic context and understanding—to give new insights and expressions by building on concepts and vocabulary we already have. He works in time and place, through circumstances, to allow us choices about learning and growing in knowledge and truth. Even to teach us sooner or later—depending on us—that sometimes the “truth” isn’t what we’d like it to be. For example, as much as I loved the Book of Mormon at one time and wanted to feel that “burning” in my heart about its veracity, I never did. God was using my language and understanding to teach me, even while at the same time I was ignoring things.
Here’s another example of things I was ignoring. I just “knew” that the “anti-Mormon” teachings I was confronted with would eventually be proven wrong. Observations that the Book of Mormon mentions animals like horses and elephants being in the Americas contradicting the lack of evidence that these animals were there before the Europeans came, did not phase me. Observations about other odd words in the Book of Mormon, such as “adieu”—a French word for “good-bye,” did not concern me at all. I trusted what I “knew” to be true so much more than I trusted these “anti-Mormons,” whom I was sure hated us. (Another thing I didn’t know I was mostly wrong about.)
As a devoted member of the LDS Church, I settled comfortably with some Bible words, phrases, and verses showing up in the Book of Mormon word for word or out of time or context. These were Scripture words. Again, I didn’t see or understand how many or how strong the correlations and the echoes were between the Book of Mormon and the Bible, because I was so unfamiliar with the Bible as a whole, with its stories and verses—in context. As noted, I believed the same God who put these words in the Bible prophets’ and apostles’ mouths put these same words, phrases, or verses in the ancient Book of Mormon prophets’ mouths. No problem.
However, and again concerning 1 Nephi 13–14, here and now, read or skim Revelation chapter 17. If you are familiar with the Bible, you may have already noticed that a super-abundance of words and phrases used in 1 Nephi 13–14 are also words and phrases used in Revelation 17, KJV (and from a few other verses in the book of Revelation, etc.). You may have also noticed their unique use in 1 Nephi 13–14—not in the Biblical context. At the very least, in just these two chapters in 1 Nephi 13–14 that we’ve been looking at, and elsewhere in the Book of Mormon, if words, phrases, and sections don’t straight-out copy the Bible, they often strongly, though strangely, echo it.
In all honesty, I haven’t made this an area of study after leaving the LDS faith, but it’s come to my attention over time and after becoming familiar with the whole Bible—in context—that besides the above kinds of New Testament correlations and echoes, there are a multitude from the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon as well. Material from Deuteronomy, the Book of Isaiah, and other books in the Old Testament is also strongly represented in the Book of Mormon. And not just that. As noted in a tract on “Catholic.com” in a section entitled, “‘Lifting’ from the King James Bible” it’s been observed that:
The only Bible that Joseph Smith relied on was the King James Version. This translation was based on a good but imperfect set of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible.
Scholars now know that this Textus Receptus contained errors, which means the King James Version contains errors. ...These exact same errors show up in the Book of Mormon. (Underlining is mine.)
I managed to overlook these things—along with many more—while I was a practicing member of the LDS Church, mainly because I was so unfamiliar with the Bible and didn’t trust it. Because of my familiarity with LDS Scripture, I was able to explain these kinds of things away as well or better than my fellow Mormon “brothers” and “sisters” could. My dedication to all that I “knew” by strong, overriding feelings to be true about the LDS Church, its history, and its teachings kept me sure of my position.
Eventually, however, even while I was still an active, devoted member of the LDS Church—through my zeal for the Book of Mormon—I realized the following things. Not only does the Book of Mormon not contain most of what the LDS Church holds to be essential doctrines, practices, and ordinances as “restored by God through Joseph Smith,” but it also absolutely teaches against at least one of the most important of them.
The most striking to me was the teaching on polygamy. A “principle and doctrine,” that the LDS Church doesn’t currently practice or even like to acknowledge, but that is nevertheless an integral part of their early Scripture and supposedly one of the Lord’s original revelations and restorations through “the prophet Joseph Smith.”,  Doctrine and Covenants section 131teaches “Celestial marriage is essential to exaltation in the highest heaven”19 (underlining is mine) and D&C 132 clearly and emphatically teaches polygamy is a “blessing” and is an integral part of the “new and everlasting covenant...” also known as Celestial marriage. The Book of Mormon teaches the very opposite.
In D&C 132,20 Joseph is allegedly told by the Lord in verses 1–6 (underlining is mine):
Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter. Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world. And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.
The Book of Mormon “prophet” Jacob, in Jacob 2:22–35, but especially in verses 23–25, teaching “the word of God” exclaims (underlining is mine):
But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
The LDS Church disregards this direct contradiction in their Scriptures with the following statement in the heading of its “Official Declaration 1,” concerning “the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church”: “The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise....”This wasn’t why I left the LDS Church and its teachings, but it wasn’t something even I, in all my zeal and devotion, could ignore. It did make me think about and begin to consider other things I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
As a youth and young adult, yet another key LDS teaching that God is a perfected, exalted man and that man (a human) can become a God (with a capital “G”) was also not in the Book of Mormon. However, this doctrine was something I understood could only possibly apply to us “after this life.” So, I didn’t see any contradiction between this LDS doctrine taught in the LDS Church, beginning with Joseph Smith, and the following Book of Mormon exchange:
And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God?
And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God.
Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?
And he answered, No.
Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things?
And he said: An angel hath made them known unto me. (Alma 11:26–31)
I just thought this teaching that there is only one God pertained to “this life” alone. We were not to look to or consider the worship of any other God, but Israel’s God, while we dwelt in this world. I didn’t see any inconsistencies here.
Later, when I came to a place of serious doubt (another story, another book!), many of the things I’d learned, especially in my youth, turned into the evidence that eventually led to my leaving it all behind me. And, after leaving, when I looked back, which I did for a while on occasion, these same things—the LDS Church’s own Scriptures and teachings—helped cement why I had left it “all” behind me.
Paradoxically, the “Greater Things” I had been seeking were not found in the “Scriptures” I held most dear, namely the Book of Mormon. They were instead, eventually, found in the person of Jesus Christ and—of all the “unlikely” places—in the Bible testaments that point to Him.
Most LDS people don't have an in-depth understanding or knowledge of their Scriptures or the teachings of their church. God used much of what I learned because of my nerdiness, and in the pursuit of one of my favorite things, for good. Familiarity with the actual teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and other LDS “prophets” and leaders served me for later discernment God gave me.
All the while, really bad theology hasn't kept God from loving me or drawing me continually into a better, truer knowledge of Him. His Spirit isn’t limited by our “understanding” but takes us from where we are toward Himself through Jesus Christ. I believe a person can be a Christian and LDS—because I was for a time, and I’ve known others in the LDS Church who also seem to know Jesus. But it’s also true that believing LDS doctrine—and any false doctrine or teaching—can greatly hinder one’s Christian walk. I can also testify to that.
Now, by God’s grace, of all the LDS Scriptures, I see only the Bible as God-appointed Scripture. I trust it as God’s standard or essential, foundational witness of His Christ. For me, it’s what all other inspiration or revelation needs to agree with before I consider something to be of God. However, I don’t regret my LDS reading and studies. They have also, in the end, served to allow the Lord to truly change my heart and motives for studying the Scriptures. They helped me learn not to rely—for foundational truth—on human “revelation” or “inspiration,” emotions, spirits (other than God’s), or even on angels (other than those sent by God), but only on God’s Spirit (through Jesus Christ). All the exposure to false teachings has served to help keep me focused on Jesus Christ and learning about and from Him alone. He is the only man who fully and truly represented God on earth and who spoke—and continues to speak through His Spirit—only the truth of God. Now I seek to prayerfully study the Bible to learn through His interpretation—by the same Holy Spirit who inspired it—more about Him, His character, word, and promises.
What made a marked difference for me? After I met Jesus, the Bible became a whole new book—even while I was a die-hard Mormon, but this belongs to a later chapter in my spiritual journey.
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love
and Christ’s perseverance.”
(2 Thessalonians 3:5)
 The unaltered (except in the footnotes) King James Version of the Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price are compiled and published together in one large volume, which L.D.S. people call “The Standard Works,” “the Scriptures,” or by its nickname, “the Sticks,” referring to sticks the like the ancient scrolls used to be rolled around (there is a whole other story behind this nickname).  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Guide to the Scriptures, “Book of Mormon,” accessed 4/24/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/gs/book-of-mormon?lang=eng  If you’re interested in a list of essential LDS doctrines that differ from essential Christian doctrines, see my March 3, 2023, blog: Biblical Apologetics, https://www.wordsintime.net/post/biblical-apologetics  For more info on the names this church has ascribed to itself to its current online assignment “www.churchofjesuschrist.org,” see: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Church History, “Name of the Church,” accessed 5/11/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/name-of-the-church?lang=eng and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Church News, “Changes to Emphasize the Correct Name of the Church of Jesus Christ, 5 March 2019, accessed 5/11/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/changes-to-emphasize-the-correct-name-of-the-church-of-jesus-christ?lang=eng  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures, Book of Mormon, “1 Nephi 13 and 14,” accessed 4/26/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/1-ne/13?lang=eng and https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/1-ne/14?lang=eng  Ibid. See both chapters 13–14 in 1 Nephi, especially 1 Nephi 14:10.  (See the whole chapter!) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures, Book of Mormon, “2 Nephi 29,” accessed 4/26/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/29?lang=eng  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures, The Pearl of Great Price, “The Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” accessed 4/26/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1?lang=eng&id=1-13#p1  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Study Helps, Bible Dictionary, “Joseph Smith Translation (JST),” accessed 4/26/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bd/joseph-smith-translation?lang=eng  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Joseph Smith Translation, Appendix, “Selections from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible,” accessed 5/2/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/jst/introduction?lang=eng  For example: Joseph Smith Translation: Every Revision in the Old and New Testaments, authored/edited by Lutes, described as, “The only single volume that highlights every revision Joseph Smith made to the Old and New Testaments in easy-reading style” (LDSBookstore.com, accessed 1/20/2014, http://www.ldsbookstore.com/joseph-smith-translation#.Ut74j_uIZwU). Another similar title, also currently available through the LDS Church’s official bookstore, Deseret Books, is entitled: “Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts,” edited by Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews. The description for this volume indicates that it: “..brings together all the Joseph Smith Translation manuscripts....” And “now, for the first time, readers can take a careful look at the complete text, along with photos of several actual manuscript pages. The book contains a typographic transcription of all the original manuscripts, unedited and preserved exactly as dictated by the prophet Joseph and recorded by his scribes....” (Deseret Books.com, accessed 2/16/2014, http://deseretbook.com/Joseph-Smiths-New-Translation-Bible-Kent-P-Jackson/i/4772990).  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Study Helps, Bible Dictionary, “Joseph Smith Translation (JST),” accessed 4/26/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bd/joseph-smith-translation?lang=eng  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures, Doctrine and Covenants, “Section 42,” accessed 4/26/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/42?lang=eng  “Anti-Mormon” is the word LDS people use to identify any one or any publication speaking “against” their church or doctrine.  BibleGateway.com, “Revelation 17, KJV,” accessed 5/2/2023, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=revelation+17&version=KJV  Catholic Answers, “Problems with the Book of Mormon,” accessed 5/2/2023, https://www.catholic.com/tract/problems-with-the-book-of-mormon  For a clear, well-researched, and documented look at other problems with the Book of Mormon and other LDS Scripture see: Jeremy Runnells’ CES Letter (available online and as a PDF, ebook, also available in paperback, and in various languages), accessed 5/2/2023, https://cesletter.org/  Not taught or found in the Bible or the Book of Mormon are the LDS Church’s “essential ordinances” such as “...ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing” (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Gospel Topics, “Ordinances,” accessed 5/12/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/ordinances?lang=eng.)  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures, Doctrine and Covenants, “Section 131,” accessed 5/3/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/131?lang=eng  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures, Doctrine and Covenants, “Section 132,” accessed 5/3/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/132?lang=eng  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures, Book of Mormon, “Jacob 2,” accessed 5/3/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/jacob/2?lang=eng  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures, Scriptures, Doctrine and Covenants, “Official Declaration 1,” accessed 5/3/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/od/1?lang=eng  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Scriptures, Book of Mormon, “Alma 11,” accessed 5/3/2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/alma/11?lang=eng